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Linguistic diversity in and around Japan


Admission requirements

For admission into this course advanced knowledge of Japanese is required. For questions please contact the instructor.


The first part of the course will give an overview of some of the differences and agreements between the three major East Asian languages – Japanese, Chinese and Korean- and the ways in which these languages interacted and influenced each other historically. Attention will also be given to remnants of languages that were once widely spoken in the geographical range such as Ainu in Japan, and Tungusic in China (which includes Manchu, the once important administrative language of Imperial China).Historical language change and influence of one language on another are intimately related to sociolinguistic choices, and we will explore a number of such choices. Linguistic choice across language boundaries, for instance involves code switching, bilingualism, language spread and language death.There is also linguistic choice within a language boundary, such as dialect diversification, gender related speech, or different levels of politeness. The second part of the course will concentrate on linguistic diversity within Japan. (The topics treated in the second part are preliminary, as it may be possible to take topics that are of special interest to the students into consideration.) Japan is rich in dialects and we will look at the distinguishing features of the different dialect areas in Japan, including the popular image and status that these dialects have. (E.g. why are some varieties of Japanese are endangered while others hold a strong position, why are certain dialects considered elegant or witty and others backwards etc.) Another interesting aspect of dialect diversification in Japan, is tone (often referred to as ‘pitch-accent’ in case of Japanese). Although in modern Japanese tone is only rarely used to distinguish different morphemes, the dialect divisions based on tone belong to the oldest in Japan and contain interesting information on the Japanese past.

Course objectives

Students will:
(1) learn to see the Japanese language in a broader context, and acquire knowledge about its typological and historical position among the languages of the region.
(2) learn about the value and special position of minority languages and will be able to discuss what these languages can tell us about language change and linguistic developments in general.
(3) be introduced to different aspects of linguistic diversity in Japanese, and be able to discuss the sociolinguistic and historical background of such diversity.
(4) develop knowledge and skills for articulating research questions for the purpose of developing a thesis or project.
(5)learn to design and conduct an original study on a topic of their choice in the field.
(6) learn to locate and critically present, summarize and discuss readings in the field for general and scholarly audiences.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

80 hours of classes (24 hrs) and preparation
30 hours to complete the assignments
30 hours to prepare for the presentation
140 hours to complete the final paper
Total: 280 hours for 10 EC.

Assessment method

Attendance and participation (minimum attendance requirement 70% of classes): 10%;
Assignments, class exercises: 20%;
Presentation: 20%;
Final paper: 50%.

The grade is calculated based on a weighted average, however, students should have a minimum 6.0 grade for Attendence and Participation and for the Final Paper.


Course notes, slides, syllabus, schedules, assignments, instructions, links, required readings, etc. Enrollment in Blackboard is obligatory.

Reading list

To be announced.


Through uSis

Remarks NB: This is the new and correct title and content. However, in uSis, e-guide, schedule this course may appear under its old title (Using Language in context: Narrative and Interaction)

All other information.